The online publication of the membership list of the right-wing British National Party (BNP) has raised some important issues. Following its publication, a policeman revealed to be a supporter is now expected to face disciplinary action, and a national radio station confirmed that it would no longer be using a freelance presenter whose details were also leaked. Both events highlight some of the problems employers need to consider if they discover that employees are members of extremist political organisations.
Q What are the potential consequences if an employer dismisses an Employee revealed to be a member of an extremist political organisation?
A Apart from police officers, who are specifically banned from becoming BNP members, it is likely that the dismissal of an employee simply on the basis of their membership of the BNP or any extremist political organisation will be found to be unfair by an employment tribunal. In assessing the fairness of the dismissal a tribunal would take into account whether the employer had first shown that one of the potentially fair grounds for dismissal applies, and that it had acted reasonably in dismissing the employee.
As political membership could not be said to be a conduct, capability or a legality issue, and assuming the post is not redundant, the only potentially fair ground for dismissal that the employer could rely upon is that there was 'some other substantial reason' for the dismissal. It would very much depend on the individual circumstances as to whether this argument would succeed. However, if the individual's membership did not have an impact on their ability to do the work it would appear unlikely.
Q How much compensation would an employee unfairly dismissed for such reasons receive?
A The maximum basic award is £9,900 and the cap on the compensatory award currently stands at £63,000. These figures are likely to rise from 1 February 2009. However, the actual sum that the employee would be awarded would depend upon their individual circumstances. The basic award is calculated in the same way as statutory redundancy and increases with age and length of service. The compensatory award would reflect the employee's losses flowing from